On Tuesday voters will consider a proposition which, if approved, would authorize the district to borrow $8,993,000 to fund improvements throughout the district. Of that, $993,000 would be in the form of zero interest bonds.
Superintendent Bill Nance said the Board of Education is proceeding in this direction in response to the strong preference of the voters at the Nov. 5, 2002, election to not consolidate the district's elementary schools at one location.
"The board listened very carefully to that message, and now it presents a plan that makes a large investment in upgrading our elementary schools in Matthews, Lilbourn and New Madrid to preserve the local elementary school concept," Nance said.
Since it will be more expensive to operate three separate elementary schools, it was necessary for the district to seek additional funds for operating these buildings, Nance explained.
For these reasons, the Tuesday ballot also includes a request to increase the operating tax levy by 80 cents per $100 dollars of assessed valuation with the increase phased in over an eight-year period.
The impact for a patron with a $100,000 assessed value home is about $19 more per year. For commercial property with the same assessed value the increase would be $32 more per year.
"In the last 10 years, the operating tax levy has gone up an average of 12 cents a year, and now the board is asking for 10 cents a year for the next eight years," Nance said.
Nance said he feels even though it is becoming more expensive to operate the district each year, the 10 cents per year (less than the 12-cent average) will allow the district to meet the educational needs of the students.
"If the voters pass propositions 1 and 2, this is going to update and modernize our facilities district-wide," Nance said. "It will improve classroom comfort and performance in each elementary school and the high school."
A four-sevenths majority is needed for passage of each measure.
"By making the improvements to these buildings from the general obligation bond proceeds and with voter approval of the operating levy, the Board of Education and administration strongly believe that it can continue to provide a quality education and have facilities that are adequate and safe for our students," Nance said.
Jim Bates, principal at Matthews Elementary in Matthews, has witnessed the changes and need for updates in the district. Bates is in his 13th year as principal and 37th year in the district.
"Our major building was constructed in 1948, and we are still using the same basic heating system -- a one-pipe heating system," Bates said. "... Sooner or later, our heating isn't going to make it."
Another area of major concern for the district is security. If Proposition 1 and Proposition 2 passes, all interior and exterior doors will be replaced at each elementary site.
In addition, mortar on many of the district's brick buildings is disappearing quickly, and the single-pane windows in the buildings allow a tremendous amount of energy to escape, Bates said.
"Improvements to school buildings would create a much more workable environment for the students," Bates said.
Nance noted during October numerous town meetings about Propositions 1 and Proposition 2 were held throughout the district. Nance feels most feedback has been positive.
"Parents and schools have worked together for years to ensure our students are receiving the best education," Nance said. "This is all about our kids and their future."